“One can’t forgive in our business. If you were to forgive every one, you would come to ruin in three years.”
“But to forgive, to say a kind, friendly word to any one, even a sinner, is something far above business, far above wealth.”
Yulia longed to soften the old man, to awaken a feeling of compassion in him, to move him to repentance; but he only listened condescendingly to all she said, as a grown-up person listens to a child.
“Fyodor Stepanovitch,” said Yulia resolutely, “you are an old man, and God soon will call you to Himself. He won’t ask you how you managed your business, and whether you were successful in it, but whether you were gracious to people; or whether you were harsh to those who were weaker than you, such as your servants, your clerks.”
“I was always the benefactor of those that served me; they ought to remember me in their prayers forever,” said the old man, with conviction, but touched by Yulia’s tone of sincerity, and anxious to give her pleasure, he said: “Very well; bring my grandchildren to-morrow. I will tell them to buy me some little presents for them.”
The old man was slovenly in his dress, and there was cigar ash on his breast and on his knees; apparently no one cleaned his boots, or brushed his clothes. The rice in the pies was half cooked, the tablecloth smelt of soap, the servants tramped noisily about the room. And the old man and the whole house had a neglected look, and Yulia, who felt this, was ashamed of herself and of her husband.
“I will be sure to come and see you to-morrow,” she said.
She walked through the rooms, and gave orders for the old man’s bedroom to be set to rights, and the lamp to be lighted under the ikons in it. Fyodor, sitting in his own room, was looking at an open book without reading it. Yulia talked to him and told the servants to tidy his room, too; then she went downstairs to the clerks. In the middle of the room where the clerks used to dine, there was an unpainted wooden post to support the ceiling and to prevent its coming down. The ceilings in the basement were low, the walls covered with cheap paper, and there was a smell of charcoal fumes and cooking. As it was a holiday, all the clerks were at home, sitting on their bedsteads waiting for dinner. When Yulia went in they jumped up, and answered her questions timidly, looking up at her from under their brows like convicts.
“Good heavens! What a horrid room you have!” she said, throwing up her hands. “Aren’t you crowded here?”
“Crowded, but not aggrieved,” said Makeitchev. “We are greatly indebted to you, and will offer up our prayers for you to our Heavenly Father.”
“The congruity of life with the conceit of the personality,” said Potchatkin.
And noticing that Yulia did not understand Potchatkin, Makeitchev hastened to explain:
“We are humble people and must live according to our position.”